The Road to 1080p
The stars of the show: a group of affordable GPU options
When preparing to build or upgrade a PC on any kind of a budget, how can you make sure you're extracting the highest performance per dollar from the parts you choose? Even if you do your homework comparing every combination of components is impossible. As system builders we always end up having to look at various benchmarks here and there and then ultimately make assumptions. It's the nature of choosing products within an industry that's completely congested at every price point.
Another problem is that lower-priced graphics cards are usually benchmarked on high-end test platforms with Core i7 processors - which is actually a necessary thing when you need to eliminate CPU bottlenecks from the mix when testing GPUs. So it seems like it might be valuable (and might help narrow buying choices down) if we could take a closer look at gaming performance from complete systems built with only budget parts, and see what these different combinations are capable of.
With this in mind I set out to see just how much it might take to reach acceptable gaming performance at 1080p (acceptable being 30 FPS+). I wanted to see where the real-world gaming bottlenecks might occur, and get a feel for the relationship between CPU and GPU performance. After all, if there was no difference in gaming performance between, say, a $40 and an $80 processor, why spend twice as much money? The same goes for graphics. We’re looking for “good enough” here, not “future-proof”.
The components in all their shiny boxy-ness (not everything made the final cut)
If money was no object we’d all have the most amazing high-end parts, and play every game at ultra settings with hundreds of frames per second (well, except at 4K). Of course most of us have limits, but the time and skill required to assemble a system with as little cash as possible can result in something that's actually a lot more rewarding (and impressive) than just throwing a bunch of money at top-shelf components.
The theme of this article is good enough, as in, don't spend more than you have to. I don't want this to sound like a bad thing. And if along the way you discover a bargain, or a part that overperforms for the price, even better!
Yet Another AM1 Story?
We’ve been talking about the AMD AM1 platform since its introduction, and it makes a compelling case for a low cost gaming PC. With the “high-end” CPU in the lineup (the Athlon 5350) just $60 and motherboards in the $35 range, it makes sense to start here. (I actually began this project with the Sempron 3820 as well, but it just wasn’t enough for 1080p gaming by a long shot so the test results were quickly discarded.) But while the 5350 is an APU, I didn't end up testing it without a dedicated GPU. (Ok, I eventually did but it just can't handle 1080p.)
But this isn’t just a story about AM1 after all. Jumping right in here, let's look at the result of my research (and mounting credit card debt). All prices were accurate as I wrote this, but are naturally prone to fluctuate:
|Memory||4GB Samsung OEM PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 (~$40 Value)|
|Storage||Western Digital Blue 1TB Hard Drive - $59.99|
|Power Supply||EVGA 430 Watt 80 PLUS PSU - $39.99|
|OS||Windows 8.1 64-bit - $99|
So there it is. I'm sure it won't please everyone, but there is enough variety in this list to support no less than 16 different combinations, and you'd better believe I ran each test on every one of those 16 system builds!
Subject: Motherboards | May 17, 2014 - 11:15 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: z97, video, pcper live, overclocking, motherboards, live, giveaway, gigabyte
With the official release of the new Intel Z97 chipset underway, we are elbow deep in new motherboard reviews and information. Our friends at Gigabyte are making a stop at the PC Perspective offices on May 21st to help educate our readers and viewers on all the changes brought about. This includes the new technologies of the Z97 chipset as well as the Gigabyte-specific features added throughout the multiple motherboard lines. We'll be live streaming the event and of course will archive it for those of you unable to be there.
If you want to catch up on what has been happening in the motherboard world, you should read Morry's Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming G1 Black Edition review.
Gigabyte Z97 Motherboard Live Stream
10am PT / 1pm ET - May 21st
Be sure you stop by and join in the show! Questions will be answered, prizes will be given out and fun will be had! Who knows, maybe we can break some stuff live as well?? On hand to give away to those of you joining the live stream, we'll have a sweet Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 3 motherboard!!
Methods for winning will be decided closer to the event, but if you are watching live, you'll be included. And we'll ship anywhere in the world!
We want the event to be interactive, so we want your questions. We'll of course being paying attention to the chat room on our live page but you'll have better luck if you submit your questions about the Gigabyte Z97 products before hand, in the comments section below. You don't have to register to ask and we'll have the ability to read them beforehand!
Subject: Motherboards | May 14, 2014 - 01:40 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: asus, ASUS ROG, giveaway, live, motherboards, overclocking, pcper live, video, z97
Last week we received a visit from none other than ASUS' own JJ Guerrero, motherboard master extraordinaire. During a live stream hosted on http://pcper.com/live we did a walk through of basically every Z97 motherboard that the company is launching this month. That includes the mainstream series of boards like the Z97-A and Z97-Deluxe, the ROG (Republic of Gamers) series, the TUF series (Sabertooth!) and even the Z97-WS Workstation board.
Not only did we look at motherboard features and hardware performance but we also had demonstrations of the new ASUS features like 5-Way Optimization, AutoTuning, Keybot and more. It was pretty compelling content and users thinking about upgrading their platforms in the near future should without a doubt look at the videos we have posted below.
Seriously though, we streamed for more than 5 hours.
As a result we have a collection of five videos to share with everyone from our PC Perspective YouTube channel. Enjoy!
(PS - If you want to check out our first review of the ASUS Z97-Deluxe, please do so. It turned out to be quite impressive.)
ASUS Z97 Mainstream Motherboards Overview
ASUS Z97 Feature Demonstration - AutoTuning, FanXpert III, 5-Way Optimization, UEFI
ASUS Z97 ROG Series Overview and Keybot, Sonic Studio Demos
ASUS Z97 TUF Series Overview - Sabertooth and Gryphon
ASUS Z97-WS Workstation Overview
Subject: Motherboards | May 7, 2014 - 11:46 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: z97, video, pcper live, overclocking, motherboards, live, giveaway, ASUS ROG, asus
Don't let me shock you with this one - the Intel Z97 chipset is a thing. And our good friends at ASUS are stopping by the offices this week to tell us ALL ABOUT the new motherboards they have built based around said chipset. If you have been paying attention then you'll know we posted a review of the brand spanking new ASUS Z97-Deluxe motherboard on our website last week.
ASUS Z97 Motherboard Live Stream
10am PT / 1pm ET - May 8th
Be sure you stop by and join in the show! Questions will be answered, prizes will be given out and fun will be had! Who knows, maybe we can break some stuff live as well?? On hand to give away to those of you joining the live stream, we'll have these prizes:
- 1 x Z97-A Motherboard
- 1 x Maximus VII Hero
Methods for winning will be decided closer to the event, but if you are watching live, you'll be included. And we'll ship anywhere in the world!
ASUS and I also want the event to be interactive, so we want your questions. We'll of course being paying attention to the chat room on our live page but you'll have better luck if you submit your questions about the ASUS Z97 products before hand, in the comments section below. You don't have to register to ask and we'll have the ability to read them beforehand!
I'll update this post with more information after the reviews and stories start to hit, so keep an eye here for more details!!
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | March 5, 2014 - 11:53 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: motherboards, Kabini, asus
AMD has just released Kabini as a socketed SoC with the AM1 platform. Not far behind is a few motherboards... because who wants a socketed APU without a socket? Chumps, that's who. Since no-one wants to be a chump, ASUS is getting ready to release two options in April. They are designed for low-power desktops and home theatre PCs.
The two boards are named the AM1M-A (Micro ATX) and the AM1I-A (Mini ITX). Otherwise, the two boards are very similar, but not identical. For instance, the Micro ATX version has two extra USB 3.0 ports while the Mini ITX has an extra COM header. The Micro ATX also has VD... by that, I mean a Realtek ALC887-VD sound card, where the Mini ITX has the ALC887 sound card without the suffix (I do not think there is a difference). The Micro ATX board also has a PCIe x16 slot (although it is electrically PCIe x4) to connect a larger-socketed add-in board (AIB) to it. As far as I can tell, they are basically the same, though.
Both motherboards will be available in April, but we do not yet have pricing information.
If interested, check out ASUS' press release after the break.
Subject: Motherboards | March 8, 2013 - 06:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: roundup, motherboards, mini-itx, celeron 847, APU, amd e-450
While high end motherboards and processors tend to get the most attention from enthusiasts, sometimes less is better (*waits for Josh to stop laughing on the podcast). More often than not seen integrated in small form factor OEM boxes, there are a few motherboards out there that come as a bare board and integrated processor to be the basis of low power desktops, network devices, and home theater PCs. Both Intel and AMD have hats in the low power game, and Hartware.de has pitched four such low power boards against each other. The MSI C847MS-E33-847 and Biostar NM70I pack Intel Celeron 847 CPUs, The Zotac D2550-ITX WIFI hosts an Intel Atom D2550 processor plus a NVIDIA GT 610 IGP, and the ASUS E45MI-M Pro is powered by an AMD E-450 APU.
Hartware.de puts several low power boards into the thunderdome to see which one(s) reign supreme.
As it turns out, the results are nearly in line with what one might expect. The Atom D2550-powered system was the slowest, the APU and ASUS motherboard was the fastest, and the Celeron was somewhere in the middle. The AMD E-450 APU used the most power, and the system was one of the most expensive, however. Interestingly, the Atom system was not all that much more power efficient than the Celeron despite the lower performance and weaker hardware. The Celeron 847 chip had decent CPU performance, and mid-range power and some of the best thermals. All of the configurations were able to playback media, but the AMD system gave the most fluid results.
If you are in the market for low power system parts, the review is worth checking out.
Here are some additional Motherboard reviews from around the web:
- GIGABYTE Z77N-WiFi Mini-ITX @ TweakTown
- ASRock Z77 Pro4-M LGA 1155 @ HardOCP
- Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4 FM2 @ PC Perspective
- ASRock's Z77E-ITX Mini ITX @ The Tech Repot
- ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 @ OCaholic
I'm pleasantly surprised at all the Mini-ITX motherboards being made lately.
Subject: Motherboards | January 23, 2013 - 04:10 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: asus, motherboards
ASUS wants to be sure everyone knows that it isn't going anywhere and that the motherboard business is doing just fine. We are working very closely with the team at ASUS and can assure you they have little interesting in backing off the DIY train and are even investing more heavily in the enthusiast market.
We are still sorry to see Intel leave the business (at least after Haswell) but it is good to have company's like this coming out and assuring us of their support!
Enthusiasts and PC builders trust ASUS as their go-to brand when it comes to building desktops. As the global leader in motherboard design across multiple product ranges, ASUS remains strongly committed to developing a wide range of new and innovative motherboards now and well into the future. For the consumer segment we have invested significant resources to grow and sustain the Build Your Own ecosystem, including the PCDIY initiative designed to educate and inspire new builders, our ongoing support for the PC gaming community, and our grassroots program for university students across North America providing support for learning through a number of vehicles. For the commercial segment we have been on the forefront with the highly acclaimed Corporate Stable Model (CSM) program in North America. ASUS motherboards have been recognized by eChannelNews with their Resellers Choice Award for Best Motherboard several years in the row. ASUS CSM motherboards covers a full range of chipsets and form factors, and come complete with a guaranteed long shelf life, advance cross shipping, and Intel vPro Technology. With the Haswell-based 4th generation Core platform we plan to deepen our commitment to bring excitement and new opportunities to the desktop platform.
ASUS will continue to expand our close partnership with Intel to fully support their growing CPU and chipset roadmap with a wide selection of motherboards that provide the highest quality and ownership value in the market. We have the utmost confidence in Intel’s continued commitment to desktop CPUs and chipsets, and eagerly look forward to leading the next generation of Build Your Own enthusiasts and system builders.
Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2012 - 05:28 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: thunderbolt controller, thunderbolt, motherboards, Intel, computex
Anandtech stopped by the Intel booth at Computex 2012 to check out their Thunderbolt display. Intel has three upcoming controllers, with the smallest being only 5.6mm wide. The company is also showing off several motherboards and Thunderbolt peripherals at their booth.
Intel has started off their Computex 2012 showings but showing off several bits of Thunderbolt hardware. They displayed three Thunderbolt controllers in various sizes (and accompanying capabilities), Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards such as this Asus motherboard we were able to get a video demonstration of, Thunderbolt docks, and other Thunderbolt peripherals.
Anandtech was able to get some photos of Intel’s booth display. One of the cool shots that they managed to take shows off three of Intel’s Thunderbolt controllers. From left to right are the Light Ridge, Cactus Ridge, and Port Ridge controllers. While the Cactus Ridge controller is capable of being a host and supporting attached devices, the smaller Port Ridge controller can only connect to Thunderbolt peripherals and only supports a single Thunderbolt port–this chip will see use primarily in tablets and other mobile devices.
In addition to the controllers themselves, Anand spotted several motherboards on display that all sported Thunderbolt controllers. These boards are further aimed at running Windows powered PCs, which is an important consideration with Apple having a large lead on adoption of the technology. Among the motherboards on display are the ASRock Extreme6 and ASRock TB, ASUS P8Z77-V Premium (LINKAGE), a Foxconn board of unknown make, Intel DZ77RE-K75, Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 TH, Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH, and a MSI Z77A-GD80 (LINKAGE).
A Thunderbolt Equipped Motherboard: The MSI Z77A-GD80
It does seem like Computex 2012 is the year for an explosion of Thunderbolt devices. As Ryan mentioned on This Week In Computer Hardware, the cost of Thunderbolt devices and the cost of cables versus the “good enough” (and much cheaper) USB 3.0 technology is going to really hold Thunderbolt back from widespread adoption. There is no doubt that Thunderbolt has the potential to be very useful, but the market of people that could really use the technology to it’s fullest is relatively small. Expect Thunderbolt to stick around, at least for a while, but it will likely not rival that of USB 3.0 as far as integration with computers and user adoption. On the other hand, if they can get the cost of cables and related hardware down far enough such that the difference between it and USB 3.0 is not much it could take off...
What do you guys think of all the Thunderbolt technology coming out of Computex (and it’s only day 1!)?
Other Thunderbolt news:
- What is Thunderbolt?
- mLink PCI-E Thunderbolt enclosure shown off at NAB 2012
- External graphics with the MSI GUS II
- Thunderbolt discussion on the PC Perspective Podcast
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